Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician General and former head of Statistics South Africa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician General and former head of Statistics South Africa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

We have to stop romanticising our plight

By Opinion Time of article published Feb 21, 2021

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By Pali Lehohla

FORTY years ago, the University of Lesotho community was very cosmopolitan with different African nationalities convening there.

Many South African politicians, bureaucrats and captains of industry studied here.

We stayed just outside the university campus.

The campus had a bee farm, and when our places became invaded, we would go to the farm management for advice.

One day, I stood there as the bees invaded my ceiling.

I summoned my herd boy days strategy of smoking them out with the help of an old tyre, a bit of petrol and a match.

After two hours, the unwelcome visitors were gone and the wall was left with a soot, but we had peace.

Last week, I listened to the State of the Nation Address in anticipation of the Budget speech, wondering how much it was about the sting of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

I wanted to know how much of it would romanticise this scourge, especially in the context of Covid-19. I found it devoid of what should be done to eliminate poverty, inequality and unemployment.

I found a lot of it being about what can be done. Marx’s thesis was about what should be done to change the world, and not what can be done.

We should not hanker after what can be done, but adopt the liberating phraseology of what should be done to remove these persistent scourges.

For example, the question should be on targets that will take South Africa out of the morass of the pandemic of poverty, inequality and unemployment. It cannot be 3% growth over the next 10 years, as this is accepting defeat.

The RDP, GEAR and NDP knew this and set the growth target at 6 percent.

What South Africa needs is the policy tools to achieve this.

This week the Applied Development Research Solutions will present a report that provides technocratic foresight for a possibility of a high growth path, reduced unemployment, poverty and inequality – the inclusive growth to which we all aspire.

Business for South Africa, in its 1 000-page document, has pointed out to this possibility.

The foresight of our Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan traps us in perpetual low growth for another 10 years at a lacklustre growth of 3 percent in the hope things would be better afterwards.

We have not checked our philosophising about South Africa.

* Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician General and former head of Statistics South Africa

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites

BUSINESS REPORT

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